Robert Alivishes Powers, 99, died Feb. 24, 2023. Bob was born a year after his parents, Robert and Norah and his brother, Tom, traveled across the Atlantic emigrating from Ireland. Bob’s father was a thoroughbred horse trainer from County Cork seeking a better future for his young family, settling in Hopkins.
Bob would ride his pony “Blueberry” to St. Joseph’s Grade School in Hopkins to attend school and to serve Mass. As Bob grew older, he accompanied his father to local and regional horse shows, often participating in cross-country events against Army calvary officers stationed at Fort Snelling.
While attending one event, Bob first met Zandra Morton, who later would become his wife. Zandra was a nationally recognized equestrienne then, as a young teen, and in the years to follow she was an Olympic hopeful. World War II was underway in 1942 when Bob graduated from high school and he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps.
After completing basic training, Bob was selected to serve as a member of the elite 3rd Marine Raider battalion and subsequently the 4th Marines. He saw combat in Guadalcanal, Bougainville and Guam. It would be on Okinawa that he would receive a battlefield commission and was awarded the Navy Cross, one month shy of his 21st birthday.
With the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August 1945, Bob’s 4th Marines were part of the first American combat troops to arrive in Japan. There, they dismantled artillery on Futtsu Cape, liberated allied troops from prison camps and witnessed the Japanese surrender on Tokyo Bay. His experiences are chronicled at the WWII Museum in New Orleans, the Marine Raider Museum in Quantico, Virginia, and in Patrick O’Donnell’s book, “Into the Rising Sun.”
After WWII, Bob enrolled at the College of St. Thomas, living in the barracks with other returning veterans, the site of today’s St. Paul Seminary. While at St. Thomas, Bob was a member of the track team and Tiger Club, graduating in 1949 with a degree in political science and Spanish.
Soon thereafter, with tensions escalating in Korea, he was recalled to active duty and accepted a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant/rifle platoon commander, 7th Marines. His platoon was part of the Inchon Landing and the Chosin Reservoir. It was here that Bob was awarded his third Purple Heart.
Back stateside, Bob married Zandra and soon would welcome Tom, Pam, Norah and Wil. They lived in the Como Park area and in 1967 purchased a 90-acre hobby farm in Hugo, where they lived until 2004.
Bob enjoyed a 39-year career with St. Paul Companies, in addition to completing his law degree at William Mitchell Law School in 1959. Bob was active on the board of the YMCA, where he was a member for 65 years, and participated in the loaned executive program for the United Way of St. Paul.
Throughout the years, Bob and Zandra remained active in local and national horse shows both as judges and stewards. Bob was granted his judge’s card in 1963 and steward’s card in 1967, officiating at over 150 horse shows throughout the U.S. and Canada for the next 40 years.
Bob was a founding member of the Minnesota Hunter and Jumper Association and the Tri-State Horsemen’s Association.
Upon retirement at 70, he returned to his alma mater and received his MBA in 1998. Retirement also gave he and Zandra time to pursue their love of cycling, swimming and running and they soon became fixtures on the local and national triathlon circuits. He competed in 226 triathlons over the years. His last competition was at the age of 91, having amassed five national championships for his age group and entry to the world finals.
Bob passed away peacefully. He was predeceased by his parents, wife Zandra and brothers Thomas and James.
He is survived by his children: Tom (Diane), of Hugo; Pam Keeler of Plymouth; Norah Gondeck (Chris) of Wayzata; and William (Megan) of Bonny Doon, California; as well as eight grandchildren; one great-grandson; and his brother Daniel (Toni).
Memorials to St. Mary of the Lake Catholic Church, White Bear Lake.